I apologize again for the lack of a post for the last two weeks. I have been very busy and have had too much to write, and so haven’t written anything.
The title above refers to a study I was trying to find this morning as I researched a question raised to me by a reader of my Capnography for Paramedics blog.
I spent most of the morning learning about the perfusion/ventilation mismatch in patients with severe respiratory disease and other factors that can alter the end tidal capnography value.
While I love being a paramedic, my primary love as been for the patients as humans, for the people aspect of the job. I have considered myself servicable at best on the science. I have been quite surprised by the passion and attention that the new technology capnography has inspired in me. Any time there are more chemical signs on a page that words I understand, then I feel I am treading on unfamiliar territory.
Life is full of surprises. The older I get the more interested in life’s strange offerings I seem to become, and the more I wish to live fully.
Lately I have been consumed by a number of topics — Capnography, Pain Management, Poker, Fitness, American Idol (Soul Patrol!), World Cup Soccer, Improving My Spanish, the Red Sox, as well as trying to be a good man for my girlfriend and a good influence on her two young children.
With all of this going on, I have somewhat neglected my writing, which often has seemed to be (misguided as it is) my only purpose in life.
A couple weeks ago I got some bad news about one of my oldest friends who has just been diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer that has spread at least to some lymph nodes and involves an ominous tumor that will require major radiation and chemotherapy. The radiation she has already started. The chemo begins this week. The prognosis is not known.
I traveled this weekend out to visit her and her family in the Southwest. I have never had such a close friend with cancer. My view of cancer is largely shaped by my experiences as a paramedic, taking patients by ambulance for radiation therapy or taking them into hospice care.
I was glad, but somewhat shocked to find her looking healthy and strong and working as normal. It was good to see her and to see that she has a good support network among family and friends in her community as well as health benefits (which while not perfect are better than the years she went without insurance).
I sat with her and her family in their back yard that looked out over the desert and, with her son (now in his 30’s, I’ve known him since he was 10) drank Techate with lime and salt, as we all talked about life and music and the beauty of the afternoon and then early evening.
The vista of the open sky with mountains far in the distance and desert birds and a jack rabbit and cactus and trucks along the distant highway was really quite spectacular. It was over 100 degrees, but it was a dry heat and we had a small fan keeping a breeze on us in the times when the desert was calm, and we wore sunscreen and hats and had a good supply of cold beer and limes.
Flying home, while glad that I had gone, I felt a little like I was leaving the Gulf Coast with Hurricane Katrina brewing in the gulf, not yet visible to the naked eye, but out there on the radar, headed toward shore.
What will happen? Will the cancer swirl in for a direct devestating hit? Will it deal a hard, but recoverable blow? Or will it miraculously go away with nothing more than a rainstorm leaving everything and everyone standing as they were? Prayers answered.
Coming back on the plane, I took my novel manuscript out and tried to work on it. I made some progress, but my view of the story and the words on the page aren’t quite in line yet. I have to keep at it.
What do I want most from life? To be a great a writer? To leave my stories? To be a great paramedic? To make a difference in people’s lives? To be a good man and a true friend? To always do what’s right?
This weekend we listened to Gram Parsons, the late great early country rock pioneer, and author of some of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. He died at a young age, and members of his band stole his body and coffin and drove him out to the Joshua Tree Desert where they set his coffin ablaze.
We watched the sun setting. The desert sky turned orange.
Gram Parsons sang:
“In my hour of darkness
in my time of need
Oh, Lord, grant me vision
Oh Lord, grant me speed.”
If I met God on the edge of the desert, I would tell him I just want my friend to get well.